Korean red ginseng, a medicinal plant known here as "hongsam," has been found to be effective in fighting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections, a South Korean research team said Thursday, citing a local patient surviving solely on red ginseng for about 30 years.
The patient was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1987. Since then, the patient has taken a dozen red ginseng capsules daily and has not used any other medication, according to a team led by Cho Young-gul, a professor at the University of Ulsan's Asan Medical Center.
Each capsule contains 500mg of the root that was steamed for three hours and left to dry at 50-80 C, with no additives, according to the team.
It said the South Korean patient has shown no symptoms of AIDS for 31 years, noting the person insists the infection actually occurred in 1985.
This latest research has drawn attention, as few cases of HIV patients on medication surviving for more than 30 years have been reported worldwide.
Cho said that the patient's immunity recently dropped remarkably, as the person started failing to take red ginseng regularly for personal reasons.
Usually, the duration of life without treatment for HIV-infected persons is 11 years.
Previously, a case of an Australian staying alive for 29 years without taking AIDS medication was reported.
Cho said Korean red ginseng seems to cause defects in the genetic code related to the AIDS virus, thus curbing the progression of the disease.
Such a hongsam treatment "might induce genetic defects in the negative factor gene," which is associated with the human immunodeficiency virus, he said in a report published in the Journal of Ginseng Research.
A number of studies have shown that the long-term intake of Korean red ginseng helps promote the human immune system. (Yonhap)